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Which 2024 Horror Movies Should Survive Your Chopping Block?

Content Warning: References to Blood, Death or Dying, Child Abuse, Kidnapping, Violence

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Content Warning: References to Blood, Death or Dying, Child Abuse, Kidnapping, Violence

 

It’s an unspoken rule amongst horror movie enthusiasts to keep an eye out for movie releases in October. Film studios love to cash in on the Halloween season, premiering their spookiest pictures over the month. However, the filming and release of last year’s Halloween films were delayed in the wake of the SAG-AFTRA strike, and have only just started to grace the big screen months later. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the influx of horror movies to catch up on, and are limited by both time and budget, here’s a quick rundown to help you decide which ones are worth seeing, and which ones can be axed from your watchlist.

 

If you want to laugh out loud (and cower behind) your friends… watch ABIGAIL.

 

What are friends for, if not to drag to the cinemas so you can witness a bunch of criminals realise they’re in deadly trouble for kidnapping a child ballerina-slash-vampire? Abigail (2024), directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, is an enjoyable romp that lives up toits eyebrow-raising premise. Alisha Weir (Matilda the Musical) plays the titular character Abigail, embodying both the innocent whimsy of a young dancer and the terrifying ferocity of a hungry bloodsucker. Abigail’s ensemble cast of abductors includes the likes of rising scream queens Melissa Barrera (Scream) and Kathryn Newton (Freaky), who leave no weak links performance-wise. Set in a dark, decrepit mansion, Abigail cultivates a tense atmosphere that is only broken for the sake of well-timed comedy. The characters go berserk, registering the pure absurdity of the situation they’ve found themselves in, all while Abigail twirls around and leaps in the air, eyeing her next kill. It’s this ridiculous humour that masks any of the film’s stumbles, including its cheap jump scares and predictable plot points. Towards the last act, the film finds itself in the throes of deus ex machina cliches, but it still wraps up in a satisfying manner that invites comical discussions as you walk with your friends out of the cinema.

 

If you’ve got some brain cells to spare… watch EXHUMA.

 

Watching Jang Jae-hyun’s 2024 flick Exhuma is like stepping into a seemingly shallow pool and suddenly being submerged in its surprising depth. The movie begins with famed shaman Hwa-rim (Kim Go-Eun) and her assistant Bong-gil (Lee Do-hyun) investigating a unique affliction plaguing the newborn child of a Korean-American family, deducing that it can be remedied by appeasing an ancestor’s spirit. True to its title, the exhumation of a corpse is central to the story, but it soon shapes out to be much more than a run-of-the-mill ghost story. A mysterious spectre soon begins to haunt not just the desperate family, but Hwa-rim and her crew—leading them to a mystery embedded in Korea’s history. This mystery is unravelled in fleeting, dreadful glimpses, which point to the horrors of Korea under Japanese military occupation. Linguistic foreshadowing and haunting imagery abound, which are just enough to keep you entertained and guessing over the movie’s substantial, two-hour runtime. A plot-heavy story rooted in the unsettling remnants of history, Exhuma sometimes fails to develop its cast of characters beyond their cold exteriors. Nonetheless, if you’re looking to fall into a rabbit hole of research to piece together a plot, Exhuma is the movie for you. 

 

If you want to challenge your attention span in the age of instant gratification… watch LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL.

 

Late Night with the Devil (2023) is a film that falls neatly into the genre of contemporary Australian horror, having been directed by Brisbane-based filmmakers Cameron and Colin Cairnes and shot in Melbourne’s very own Dockland Studios. After years of being relegated to supporting roles in box office hits, David Dastmalchian takes on his first lead role as Jack Delroy, the film’s charismatic yet timid host of the talk show Night Owls. Fearing Night Owl’s cancellation and hoping to stand out in the crowded talk show space, Jack airs a Halloween special featuring parapsychologist June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) and her foster daughter Lilly (Ingrid Torelli), who was saved from a diabolical cult and seems to be possessed by a demon. The film itself is presented like a talk show, peppered with ad breaks and interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage, which makes for a uniquely immersive experience. Even so, its promise of horror rests not on immediate jump scares and shadowed lighting effects, but on a growing sense of dread as the film rolls on. Unease simmers throughout, but never actually strikes until the last few minutes, resulting in an eerie, bewildering payoff. Because of this, Late Night with the Devil might not be for everyone, but for the few who are willing to sacrifice on-screen action for an undercurrent of tension, it will surely entertain. 

 

If your guilty pleasure is old-school horror… watch THE FIRST OMEN. 

 

Of course Arkasha Stevenson’s The First Omen (2024) would channel classic horror, after all, it’s a prequel to the 1976 flick The Omen. But you’d be surprised at how easily remakes can get it wrong (I’m looking at you, the 2022 release of Texas Chainsaw Massacre). The First Omen follows young novitiate Margaret (Nell Tiger Free), who travels from America to an orphanage in Italy to prepare for her new life as a nun. In the orphanage, Margaret forms a bond with an outcast child Carlita (Nicole Sorace), whom she soon suspects is being primed to be sacrificed to the antichrist. The film unfolds in a manner familiar to long-time horror viewers: perplexing visions that act as initial premonitions, chilling interactions and horrifying sequences that cement this fear, all of these eventually clicking together just in time for the film’s adrenaline-packed final act. Save for its head-spinning conspiracy about the Christian Church deliberately creating the antichrist, The First Omen is fairly predictable and unoriginal—but this simplicity is what makes it shine. There are no innovations to its form and style, which saves it from the risk of failing to execute inventiveness. Unfortunately, this extends to its offhand misogynistic treatment of female characters. Despite its misgivings, The First Omen ends by seamlessly connecting to The Omen franchise, making it a laudable standout in a pile of remakes.

 

There may be a slew of new horror movies to check out, but you shouldn’t have to worry about seeing them all to get your fill of the genre. Recent releases have been wildly diverse in tone, form, and style, so stick to the ones that fit your tastes and don’t be afraid to lead the rest to the chopping block.

 
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